SONOMA, Calif. (Friday, Aug. 24, 2012) – Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports driver Simon Pagenaud recorded the third-fastest lap time in today’s single practice session for Sunday’s GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Pagenaud completed 26 laps in the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car during the 75-minute practice session, more than any other IZOD IndyCar Series driver. Immediately, the team and he were on pace.

“It was a good start to the weekend,” said Pagenaud. “The HP team has done a good job preparing the car. It feels better and faster than we were at the test. I know we have a good car, so we’ll just work on making it better for qualifying.”

Though Pagenaud is an IZOD IndyCar Series rookie, he will be starting his second IndyCar race at Sonoma. He was a last-minute substitute for Simona de Silvestro in 2011 on a course he enjoys.

“Driving an Indy car around Sonoma is just like riding a rollercoaster,” said Pagenaud. “The difference is I get sick on rollercoasters. I’m glad I’m not sick in the race car, and it’s probably because I’m in control of my HP car. When you’re going through Sonoma’s Turn 1 and then up the hill, it is just like a rollercoaster. It’s a really fun race track, but it can be stressful at the top of the hills because you don’t know what’s up there. It requires you to anticipate.”

Race courses with significant elevation change are welcomed by Pagenaud.

“Here in the U.S., you also have Laguna Seca with significant elevation change. In Europe, there is the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps with Eau Rouge. There should really be more tracks like these with elevation changes. It puts another element of driving into the race. Anything that’s more complicated is more fun.”

Qualifying for Sunday’s 85-lap race is Saturday at 2:30 PT (local time).

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The next episode of “INDYCAR 36” on the NBC Sports Network will feature Simon Pagenaud and the Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports team. The Pagenaud show will premier at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 25, immediately following coverage of IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma on the NBC Sports Network.

Broadcast Schedule
The GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, an 85-lap race around the 12-turn, 2.31-mile Sonoma road course, will air live on NBC Sports Network, Sunday, Aug. 26 at 4 p.m. ET. The race will also be live on the IMS Radio Network and on XM 94/Sirius 212. Qualifications will be televised on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 6 p.m. ET, on the NBC Sports Network.